KIRKCALDY 33 HAMILTON 30
With two games still to play the Blues were crowned BT National League 2 champions after a pulsating game at Beveridge Park against the likely runners-up in this division. After taking a 5th minute lead with a Finlay Smith penalty goal the home team were never behind but came dangerously close to losing with an all-action finale from the Lanarkshire side which produced three tries in the space of ten minute.
What really separated the sides was the accuracy of Finlay Smith's goal kicking. The full back converted all three of his side's tries as well as slotting four penalties. Altogether Hamilton had a fairly miserable day at goal with both Andy Wilson and his replacement Owen McLeish had vital misses.
Hamilton, capable of attacking from their own goal line, outscored their hosts by five tries to three, and with their margin of defeat under seven points earned two league points.
The last ten minutes of the game worried Head coach Quintan Sanft who admitted he could see the game slipping away. “We controlled the game for over an hour even with the changes we had to make before and during the game. We were 26-8 ahead in the 62nd minute and the boys probably thought that the game had been won. Our game plan had worked well, keeping the ball well away from their backs with our forwards dominant. When they began to get a better share of the ball we wobbled a bit. However we held on and had a deserved win”
Before the game started the Blues learned that tight head prop Marcus Salt had not sufficiently recovered from a leg injury sustained at Biggar and with regular wingers Finlay Bruce and Owen Bonner also absent. Only minutes into the game Salt's replacement Gerard Queen had to go off with an eye injury, quickly followed by flanker Scott Barclay, also with head damage which proved to be concussive. These early replacements threw up in the air plans for later substitutions.
There was a real air of anticipation pre-match with a packed clubhouse and by kick off the stand already full it was reckoned that there were about 500 in attendance, Over the last decade or so a keen rivalry has developed between these two clubs with former Kirkcaldy skipper Mark Wallace now heading Hamilton and his brother Greg leading out the Blues.
The home support enjoyed the opening exchanges as the Blues began in positive fashion and earned a penalty kicked by Smith before two minutes had been played. However this early enthusiasm died a bit when in the visitors' first attack, stand-off Andy Wilson kicked an equalising penalty. Quickly the Blues regained the initiative as the forwards took charge. This pressure set up field position for the game's first try as centre Josh Laird smartly cut through for this score converted by Smith and a 10-3 Kirkcaldy lead.
Another try from stand-off Craig Letham, with Smith again adding the extra points, advanced the Kirkcaldy tally to seventeen. Hamilton had seen little of the ball but when they did they carried a real threat as shown in a 34th minute try from Ross Inglis. Nevertheless the home defence looked solid with corrosive defence from the back row. Kirkcaldy's Smith continued to hit the target and a third penalty just on half time left the Blues with a 23-8 lead.
This score moved on to 26-8 with Smith's fourth penalty and already Kirkcaldy supporters were celebrating promotion. Even a second Hamilton try from hooker Ross McQueen failed to dampen Kirkcaldy optimism. The Blues seemed to have settled the issue with fifteen minute left with replacement Rory Brown working his way over the line and the unerring Smith kicking the conversion.
However it was at this point that Sanft detected a drop in his team's concentration which allowed Hamilton to set up the dramatic end. The visitors were running everything and some signs of panic started to appear. Three tries from Craig Inglis only one of which was converted took Hamilton to within three points of the Kirkcaldy. In the end accuracy of goal kicking decided the outcome which left Kirkcaldy as league champions.
Kirkcaldy:- F Smith, R Low, I Gillies, J Laird, C Littlejohn, C Letham, G McKenzie, D Jennings, G Wallace, G Queen, C Wood, S Mitchell, S Barclay, R Bonner, D Turner
Replacements: J Pow, M Harper, R Brown, J Moffatt
Hamilton:- R Jamieson, C Inglis, J Howatson, M Wallace, R Inlis, A Wilson, H Crush, C McLaughlin, R McQueen, D Carr, R Maxton, G Jones, Alexander, R Brown, F Dunnachie,
Replacements:- S Leggate, G Brodie, C Craig, O McLeish
M Duncan (SRU)
Fife Trophy Centre STAR CHECK
3 Finlay Smith
2 Greg Wallace
1 Josh Laird
26 Connor Wood
15 Rhys Bonner
12 Dayle Turner, Finlay Smith
8 Josh Laird
7 Greg Wallace
5 Owen Bonner
4 Matt Harvey, Marcus Salt
3 Scott Anderson, DannyJennings
2 Michael Harper, Craig Letham, Jamie Moffatt
1 Iain Gillies, Rory Brown, Steve Mitchell